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Help Wanted in N.H.: Journalism without sexism

A local columnist lauded Dartmouth’s 19th president for his accomplishments, but when writing about the school’s first female president he focused on housework — and accused her of shirking it, another journalist and the school’s former provost note.

A bicyclist passes a college tour group outside the Baker Library on Dartmouth Green at Dartmouth College, Friday, April 7, 2023, in Hanover, N.H.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Ten years ago, Jim Kenyon, a columnist for the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., welcomed Dartmouth College’s incoming 19th president with a profile headlined “Hangin’ With Phil: At Michigan, Dartmouth’s Next President Cuts a High-Impact, Low-Profile Figure on Campus.”

Kenyon, who’d traveled to the University of Michigan to interview Phil Hanlon, was fulsome in his praise for the mathematician’s amiability, intellect, accomplishments, and work ethic. “It’s hard to argue that Hanlon doesn’t earn his pay,” Kenyon wrote in the Feb. 3, 2013 piece. “His daily schedule is a  whirlwind of meetings and appearances, often beginning before 8 a.m. and sometimes going well into the night.”


On July 23, Kenyon greeted Hanlon’s successor, Sian Leah Beilock, with a very different kind of article. Heralding the arrival of Dartmouth’s first woman president, Kenyon focused on  housework—and accused Beilock of shirking it.

In his article, “A president like royalty at Dartmouth College,” Kenyon evinces no familiarity with Beilock’s achievements as a cognitive scientist and as president of Barnard College. His only reference to her academic work is a snide remark about shopping: “She’s spent the last 18 years working in Chicago and New York, where she was president of Barnard College, starting in 2017. As a cognitive scientist, however, Beilock must have figured out already the Upper Valley is far removed from life in the big city. I don’t believe the L.L. Bean outlet in West Lebanon carries Gucci.”

In fact, Kenyon’s source material on Beilock appears limited to a help-wanted ad that her office posted on July 14 to replace the recently retired housekeeper for the school’s presidential residence.

The ad specifies that the housekeeper will spend 65 percent of his or her time keeping the four-story event space which Beilock now inhabits clean and ready for gatherings, and 20 percent on event preparation, communication, and related duties. This is support Beilock’s predecessors have counted on, without attracting public notice.


According to the ad, the remaining 15 percent of the housekeeper’s time will be spent helping Beilock, who has moved to Hanover with a school-aged daughter and a dog, run errands and take care of her family.

And that’s what seems to irk Kenyon most.

Never mind that Beilock will be paying for these particular services herself. Never mind that, unlike many of her predecessors and other male executives, Beilock lacks the advantage of having a stay-at-home spouse. According to Kenyon, “Beilock is taking the idea that a Dartmouth president deserves special treatment to a new level.”

With no facts to support this assertion, Kenyon resorts to caricature. In his telling, Beilock is an elitist New Yorker seeking not just a “personal gopher,” but also a “chauffeur” for her dog.  Kenyon seems especially uncomfortable with Beilock’s prediction that, while overseeing 6,500 students, 4,000 employees, and a billion-dollar budget, she’ll sometimes need help with grocery shopping and cooking.

Instead, Kenyon suggests, she should be more like Phil.

Though Hanlon, whose children are grown, was “hardly a man of the people,” he could sometimes be found “pushing a shopping cart at the Lebanon Co-op,” Kenyon reminisces. He adds, “Perhaps after discovering that same-day Amazon delivery to her doorstep from Whole Foods is a long shot, Beilock will adjust to life in the slow lane as well.”

Does Beilock’s dual identity as a mom and a president confound Kenyon?


Many women with demanding professional lives also have school-aged children and dogs, including us. We need, ask for, and gratefully acknowledge all the help we can get. We hope to show our children that an ethical leader isn’t a sleep-deprived lone warrior, but a community member with a particular role, figuring it out along with everyone else: women and men with jobs and families, deadlines and laundry, and the occasional need to run errands.

So, Mr. Kenyon, we fixed it for you, to underscore what our new neighbor really does: “It’s hard to argue that President Beilock doesn’t earn her pay. Her daily schedule is a whirlwind of meetings and appearances, often beginning before 8 a.m. and sometimes going well into the night. President Beilock partners with family, friends, and colleagues to balance one of the top jobs in academia with the monumental demands of motherhood.”

Carolyn Dever, of Hanover, N.H., is a professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth, where she was previously provost. Olivia Gentile is a journalist in Etna, a small community in Hanover.